A colleague and I delivered a presentation recently at the City Security and Resilience Networks (CSARN) conference on Crisis Leadership. It was based around much of the work we have been doing recently on the decision making and situational awareness aspects of crisis management. We considered the dynamics behind decision making in a crisis and the issues a crisis team and its leader are faced with. We looked at the individual, the leader and the team as a whole, taking into account what was most sought after in a perfect situation and what the psychological realities would impose upon people’s behaviours.
I was asked a very good question afterwards, on how a team develops the soft skills needed to cope with the psychological pressures they would face, both inwardly and in working with colleagues whose reaction to stress may be different. This was an interesting point. In most cases, training provided to a crisis team focusses exclusively on the principles of good crisis management e.g. Identifying issues, sharing information, developing strategies etc – less so on managing psychological pressures, which traditionally is seem more as a facet of ‘peacetime’ management training. Yet the ability to do this is vital to a successful outcome.
Running a rehearsal using a scenario based exercise certainly gives excellent experiential knowledge to those taking part – and it is one approach to building the teamwork, understanding and “closeness” that the team will need in the teeth of a real crisis. In fact in an ideal world, bespoke soft skills training would be incorporated into the crisis management training package, but that seemingly is rarely the case. However, it is also important that staff are chosen in the first instance for their more generalist management skills and soft skills maturity – the last thing you need is an internal battle among characters in the midst of a crisis and efforts should be made to achieve a balanced resource with complimentary behaviours. Personality profiling can potentially assist in this task, in conjunction with local knowledge from an experienced team facilitator.